“You can have a pretty huge trip that comes to, say, under $100 to offset all of the carbon for it and that can be a trip that’s like $50,000. So I don’t think people realize how affordable it is to offset the carbon on a trip,” Colin Heinrich, the global impact anager for Indagare, which partners with AD on design-focused trips, says. “I think if people did, they’d be much more likely to offset it.”

Of course, offsetting emissions is never going to be a perfect solution. “The first choice is always preventing the emission in the first place, and so with that in mind we try to recommend that people fly as little as possible, spend a longer time in further destinations, stay in these hotels that are eco-friendlier, travel in more eco-friendly ways like electric vehicles or train travel, dine at places that have locally sourced food, everything like that,” Heinrich continued. “But when we can’t get any further than that in their trip or they don’t want to sacrifice anything more, then we can offset the rest.”

Building Hotels More Sustainably

Capella Ubud was painstakingly crafted to be “essentially invisible to the outside world—with not a single tree cut down,” explains its designer, Bill Bensley.

Photo: Courtesy of Bensley

“Sadly, I think there is a [predisposition] to think that building green is innately more expensive than a standard build,” Bangkok-based designer Bill Bensley tells AD. “Since the buildings which created those ideas of high costs were built, the technology has grown leaps and bounds and become much more accessible—and accessed!”

According to Bensley, project owners often don’t realize the harm that building a new hotel inflicts on the planet. He notes that the construction sector alone contributes to 23% of air pollution, 40% of drinking water pollution, and 50% of landfill waste worldwide. Choosing eco-friendly construction methods can not only save the planet, they can save money too. That’s why he recently released a white paper outlining sustainable best practices for fellow architects, designers, and hoteliers setting out to build a new hotel.

“At Capella Ubud I talked my client out of building a 120-room Novotel that would have destroyed the forest completely, instead building a 24-tent camp that tiptoes ever so softly on the land, and did not change drainage patterns. Instead of standing tall on an overbuilt island it hunkers down and is essentially invisible to the outside world—with not a single tree cut down,” Bensley continues. “Using this principle, which I call Low Impact High Yield, you spend far less on building materials for a handful of tents than for an enormous, carbon-dioxide-emitting concrete structure of 120 rooms, and are able to sell those ever-so-exclusive tents for far more than a standard room.”